Stepping Away from the Sidelines

Departing Men’s Basketball Coach Reflects on Legacy

  • Stingers men’s basketball head coach John Dore (third from right) is surrounded by assistant coaches Ernie Rosa (left), Raskto Popovic (second from left), players Mukiya Post (third from right), Gabe Riche (middle), Athletic Director Patrick Boivin (right of Dore) and Stingers mascot, Buzz, before his last home game as coach on Saturday, Feb. 21. Photo Brandon Johnston

Stingers basketball players probably see him more often than they see their parents. John Dore has been the man on the sidelines of every men’s basketball game for the past 26 years, as well as the man behind the never-frowning but stern lips and eyes permanently pinched from smiling, or maybe exhaustion.

After barely a day off—coaching takes up at least six days a week—Dore is still pretty cheerful. Following a late-night return from playing in Quebec City, Dore drove all the way to Hudson to spend only an hour and a half with his grandchildren.

“I enjoy life, I enjoy every day. Not too many things I don’t like,” he says with a tinge of his native Queens, New York accent.

With a legacy as head coach for the Stingers that is older than most of his current roster, Dore is headed to his last regional playoffs at Bishop’s University on March 6. His team will meet the rival McGill Redmen in their semi-final game.

But the regional games are nothing compared to the heyday of Dore’s career: 13 trips to the national championships, winning the prize in 1990 and making the finals in 1995 and 2005.

“I’m honoured to have been at Concordia all this time,” he said the day before his last home game against McGill. That game featured a celebration of Dore’s Stingers career, featuring friends from across the country, and ended in a Stingers victory.

“I had a great time here.”

The 62-year-old basketball veteran is a former Stinger himself. He started off playing for Loyola College in 1971 and graduated from Concordia in 1976. He went on to teach and coach at St. George’s High School for 14 years, before coaching at Vanier College for a few years.

Dore’s past life also includes a two-year stint as assistant coach of Concordia’s women’s team from 1976 to 1978. In the 1980s he returned as assistant coach for the men’s team, eventually rising to head coach status.

When Dore isn’t coaching in the Loyola gym, he’s stepping in to help players in their personal and academic lives.

“It’s important for me to have student athletes that not only want to compete on the basketball court, but want to do well academically, and to make them socially conscious,” he said.

Dore reminds players that they are still students—basketball has an end where real life and work begins.

“He always there to guide us, regardless if it’s something basketball-related, school-related, job-related,” said assistant coach Rastko Popovic. “A lot of us come here young and inexperienced and we leave here grown men.”

Popovic played for the men’s basketball team from 2001 to 2006. He’s been coaching with Dore for the last two years.

“I make fun of him now, because he’s mellowed,” Popovic said with a smile, remembering his first practices with Dore as being intense. He describes Dore as a player’s coach, always pushing his team, but giving them freedom to make decisions.

“I enjoy life, I enjoy every day. Not too many things I don’t like.” -John Dore

During Popovic’s time as a player, the Stingers played highly respected basketball programs from the NCAA in the U.S. including Duke and Connecticut. Two years after Popovic left the Stingers as a player, Dore’s Stingers delivered an upset against the University of Illinois in the Loyola Gymnasium.

“I have the best experience of my life as a player and it’s because of coach Dore,” said Popovic. “He believes in these guys.”

Ricardo Monge from Gatineau is a first year JMSB student, but despite his rookie status he’s the team’s starting point guard, one of the most specialized roles in the game.

“I only knew him for a short period of time, but he trusted me,” Monge said of Dore.

“He gave me the opportunity to be a starter even though it’s my first year,” he said. “He mentored me a lot and I feel that I improved a lot since I came here.”

Dore is proud of the consistency in the program. In 26 years, he says he’s only had about five assistant coaches.

That means spending decades with students and being there when graduates visit their former stomping grounds. Dore also makes it his mission to help players figure out their next steps.

“I’ve sat in on job interviews with student athletes,” he said. “You want to help them and sometimes you know the people and they tell you to come in and sit down.”

For Dore, helping out is all part of coaching, even if that entails being a part-time father.

“If a kid’s from out of town and needs to go to the hospital because he’s sick or needs surgery, whose going to take him?” he said.

The team’s motto is that whatever needs to be done has to get done by someone, regardless of their position or status.

“If I have to carry the water bottles out, I’ll carry the water bottles out,” Dore said. “Doesn’t matter if it’s me or somebody else.”

The attitude carries to the court.

“There’s no thinking, ‘we can’t do this,’” he said. “Do right the first time and move on.”

Coming off a media blitz and interviews with CBC, Sportsnet, and TSN to name a few, Dore says he knows the attention he’s getting is more than your typical retirement party.

“I got an email from Spain yesterday, it said ‘I heard you’re retiring,’” Dore said casually.

Dore will probably stay in the spotlight for a while longer. Sportsnet was the first to contact him about a possible job as an analyst within the network, he says. Previously, he’s worked with The Score, TSN and CBC.

He’s already on the board of advisors for LiveBarn.com, a new live-streaming service for amateur and minor league hockey, basketball and indoor soccer games.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to be doing,” he said. “I know I won’t sit for too long and do nothing.”

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